Injured boxer's family files lawsuit

Updated: March 27, 2014, 3:33 PM ET
By William Weinbaum | Outside The Lines

The family of brain-damaged Russian heavyweight boxer Magomed Abdusalamov filed a lawsuit Wednesday against multiple parties -- including five New York State Athletic Commission doctors -- alleging recklessness, gross negligence and medical malpractice.

The lawsuit comes nearly five months after Abdusalamov suffered traumatic brain injuries during a 10-round loss to Mike Perez. Other parties named in the lawsuit include the referee, the commission's inspector, Madison Square Garden and K2 Promotions.

After Abdusalamov was battered and bloodied in going the distance the night of Nov. 2 against Perez, he was brought by taxi from the Theater at Madison Square Garden to Mt. Sinai Roosevelt Hospital some 25 blocks away. He underwent life-saving surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain nearly three hours after his fight ended, but the native of the Republic of Dagestan suffered multiple strokes and was in a coma for weeks.

[+] EnlargeMago
HBO ArchivesMagomed Abdusalamov's face became swollen and disfigured during his fight against Mike Perez, and he had life-saving surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. He has brain damage as a result of his injuries.

Dr. Rupendra Swarup, medical director of Mt. Sinai Roosevelt's department of neurosurgery, said Abdusalamov has regained slight movement and can follow simple commands but is still bedridden and may never walk or talk again. If he showed any sign of an intracranial injury after the fight, said Swarup, getting him to the hospital should have been an urgent matter.

As "Outside the Lines" reported in February, despite a laceration above Abdusalamov's eye that was sutured in the dressing room, as well as injuries later diagnosed as broken bones in his face and hand, he was not sent in an ambulance to the hospital by commission doctors who attended to him after the fight. His handlers said that although Abdusalamov also complained of head pain, the doctors advised him to get his injuries looked at in a day or two.

The suit names doctors Barry Jordan, the commission's chief medical officer; Avery Browne; Anthony Curreri; Osric King; and Gerard Varlotta. According to Boxingscene.com writer Thomas Hauser, Jordan and King examined Abdusalamov postfight in the ring, then Varlotta and Curreri did so in the dressing room. During the fight, King was assigned to Abdusalamov's corner and Browne to Perez's corner.

"These doctors screwed up beyond belief," Abdusalamov family attorney Paul Edelstein told "Outside the Lines" on Wednesday. "Not giving him proper postfight medical attention was reckless and egregious; not stopping the fight was negligent."

After a first round in which a Perez forearm to Abdusalamov's face staggered him, he asked his corner whether his nose was broken. The illegal blow could have resulted in a no-contest ruling by referee Benjy Esteves Jr. but didn't. As the action-packed match progressed, without any knockdowns, Abdusalamov was struck with 312 blows, and the left side of his face became a disfigured and bloody mess.

In early November, the state inspector general began an investigation into the fight and its aftermath, at the behest of the office of New York's Secretary of State, which oversees the athletic commission. The probe's completion date has not been announced.

A state athletic commission spokesman said Thursday that the commission hasn't seen the suit and doesn't comment on pending litigation. A day earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the appointment of attorney David Berlin as the commission's new executive director, effective May 1.

The five doctors and K2 Promotions have not yet responded to requests for comment Thursday. A Madison Square Garden spokesman said MSG had not yet been served with the complaint.

Abdusalamov, who turned 33 on Tuesday, was transported early Thursday from a rehabilitation facility back to Mt. Sinai Roosevelt to undergo additional surgery, this time to install a shunt in his head to regulate the flow of cerebral fluid. A family member said Thursday afternoon that Abdusalamov was out of surgery and the operation was deemed a success by his doctors.

Wednesday's State Supreme Court filing on behalf of Abdusalamov, his wife and three young daughters does not specify monetary damages, but it states that the defendants' actions resulted in Abdusalamov's permanent brain damage and disability, ongoing severe pain and suffering, and a future of extensive medical care. An earlier Court of Claims filing by Abdusalamov's family, first reported by "Outside the Lines," indicated its intention to file a $100 million claim against the state and the athletic commission.

"I would have preferred to also sue the athletic commission directly, but I'm not allowed to," Edelstein said. "It is immune [under the legislation that created it], but its employees, including the doctors, are not.

"If responsibility on the part of the commission doctors is found, the state's taxpayers would pay the bill, and that is horrendous."

The state athletic commission inspector named in the suit is Matt Farrago, a former boxer who was assigned to monitor Abdusalamov before, during and after the fight. In an interview with "Outside the Lines" on Thursday, Farrago said the commission suspended him indefinitely less than a week after the Abdusalamov-Perez fight and told him it was unrelated to the bout.

Farrago and Abdusalamov's handlers say he urged the fighter to go to the hospital when he saw blood in his urine sample after the commission doctors had cleared him and left the dressing room.

And Farrago, who said his pay to be an inspector for the fight was $52, runs the boxing charity Ring 10 -- he says it's raised about $175,000 for Abdusalamov and his family.

"I understand the lawsuit and this is a litigation country and everybody gets sued," Farrago said. "I was the first guy and the last guy to see 'Mago' [at Madison Square Garden], so I understand they would want to talk to me."

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